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The Stone Churches of Ivanovo

BULGARIA | Thursday, 20 October 2011 | Views [1026]

Fresco, Stone Church of Virgin Mary at Ivanovo

Fresco, Stone Church of Virgin Mary at Ivanovo

I didn't know anything about the Stone Churches of Ivanovo except that they were part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  To quote Yogi Berra, in fact, "I didn't even suspect anything!"  But the frescos in the Church of the Virgin Mary were some of the most surprising art I have ever encountered.

We climbed the 124 steps to the church, which is carved into the solid rock, only to find it locked.  By and by, "the man with the key" arrived, huffing and puffing cigarette and garlic fumes into the crisp morning air.  "The man with the key" is an apologetic phrase we often heard in Africa when things were inexplicably closed, usually as "The man with the key has gone."  Anyway, he opened the gate in the crack in the rock that serves as the church door and pocketed our 10 leva entry fee.  Thus rewarded he replied, "Is OK" when I pointed to my camera, both of us fully aware that photos are verboten. (See "Photos")

The church and the neighboring monasteries were carved into the rock in the 14th Century, about the same time that much of the religious art of the Renaissance was painted.  The style, which we later read that the style is called "Teranovo," appears much more modern.  It is almost etherial, brightly colored and not overly detailed.  The Biblical scenes are the same ones you can see in churches all over Europe but these are so much more human. 


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